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Children are a bigger distraction to drivers than cellphones

If you're one of the millions of parents who will be shuttling their kids to day camps, softball games, play dates and "Mommy and Me" classes this summer, it's essential to understand how much of a distraction the kids can be to you when you're behind the wheel. Not only can kids take their parents' minds off their driving, they often cause them to take their eyes off the road.

One study found that drivers who had young passengers in the car spent more than 20% of their time with their eyes completely off the road. That's 12 times greater than the average driver talking on a cellphone (which is obviously also not a safe thing to do).

Older children may be able to understand your admonitions not to distract you while you're driving. It may also be relatively easy to find ways for them to entertain themselves by listening to music or playing videos in the back seat of your vehicle.

Younger children may not grasp that their parent can't interact with them the way they expect. As one transportation researcher notes, however, "You can talk, you can sing, you can do all those kinds of interactions with your kids while you're driving, but you need to keep your eyes on the forward roadway."

The author of a study that appeared in the American Academy of Pediatrics says that the dangers of distracted driving among parents of young kids are often underestimated. She says, "Lots of attention has been given to distracted teen drivers. However… parents are frequently distracted while driving their 1-to-12-year-old children, and these distracted drivers were more likely to have been in a crash."

Even if you are conscientious about focusing on your driving no matter how much your kids may be trying to get your attention, you can't control what other parents are doing. If you see a harried parent with an SUV packed with kids, it may be wise to put some distance between your vehicle and theirs.

If you're injured in a crash with a distracted parent or other reckless or negligent driver, don't hesitate to seek the compensation you need to cover medical expenses, lost wages and other financial damages.

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